Russia delivers next fuel shipment to Iran nuclear plant

TEHRAN, January 22 (RIA Novosti) – Russia delivered on Tuesday the fifth fuel shipment to the Bushehr nuclear power plant it is building in southern Iran, the country’s mass media said, citing Iranian nuclear officials.

Russia has so far supplied a total of 55 metric tons of low-enriched uranium to the plant, which has been the focus of international attention over fears Iran is developing nuclear weapons.

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The remaining three shipments will be delivered under contract and according to a previously agreed timetable.

Sergei Kiriyenko, the director general of Russian state nuclear corporation Rosatom, earlier said Russia will complete fuel supplies to the Bushehr NPP in late February.

“In February we will complete the supplies, and actual work with the fuel at the plant will start in July-August,” he said.

Iranian government spokesman Gholam Hossein Elham said Tehran expects bilateral relations to gain much from the fuel deliveries.

“Russia and Iran maintain good, developing relations. The deliveries of nuclear fuel for the Bushehr NPP are also a good pretext for boosting cooperation between our countries,” he said.

The first delivery to the plant, being built by Russian contractor Atomstroyexport, came on December 16, 2007 following months of project delays that Moscow attributed to payment arrears, but which Iran blamed on pressure from Western nations.

Under a bilateral intergovernmental contract, Russia is set to deliver a total of 82 metric tons of fuel divided into eight shipments. Deliveries are monitored by the United Nations nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

United States President George W. Bush, who has led international calls for sanctions against Iran over its refusal to freeze its nuclear program, said last month that he supported the start of Russia’s enriched uranium deliveries to the Islamic Republic, and that Tehran no longer has any excuse to develop its own enrichment capabilities.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed Bush’s comments in late December, saying it would not be economically viable for Iran to continue its uranium enrichment program.

However, Iranian spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali-Hamenei insisted earlier this month that Tehran would continue enriching uranium for future nuclear power plants.

Tehran plans to hold tenders for the construction of 19 new nuclear reactors.